Individuals: Breach of duty of employer towards employees and non-employees/ Breach of duty of self-employed to others/ Breach of duty of employees at work/ Breach of Health and Safety regulations/ Secondary liability

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (section 33(1)(a) for breaches of sections 2, 3 and 7, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (section 33(1)(c)), Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (sections 36 and 37(1) for breaches of sections 2 and 3 and section 33(1)(c)
Effective from: 01 February 2016

Triable either way

Maximum: when tried on indictment: unlimited fine and/or 2 years’ custody when tried summarily: unlimited fine and/or 6 months’ custody

Offence range: Conditional discharge – 2 years’ custody

User guide for this offence


Applicability of guideline

In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline. It applies to all organisations and offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 February 2016, regardless of the date of the offence.

Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that when sentencing offences committed after 6 April 2010:

“Every court –
(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case, and

(b) must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function, unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”

For individuals, this guideline applies only to offenders aged 18 and older. General principles to be considered in the sentencing of youths are in the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline, Overarching Principles – Sentencing Youths.

Structure, ranges and starting points

For the purposes of section 125(3)–(4) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified a number of categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category.

Starting points define the position within a category range from which to start calculating the provisional sentence. The court should consider further features of the offence or the offender that warrant adjustment of the sentence within the range, including the aggravating and mitigating factors set out at step two. In this guideline, if the proposed sentence is a fine, having identified a provisional sentence within the range at step two the court is required to consider a further set of factors that may require a final adjustment to the sentence. Starting points and ranges apply to all offenders, whether they have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trial. Credit for a guilty plea is taken into consideration only after the appropriate sentence has been identified.

Information on fine bands and community orders is set out in the annex at pages 47 and 48.

Step 1 – Determining the offence category

The court should determine the offence category using only the culpability and harm factors in the lists below.


Where there are factors present in the case that fall in different categories of culpability, the court should balance these factors to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.

Very High

Where the offender intentionally breached, or flagrantly disregarded, the law


Actual foresight of, or wilful blindness to, risk of offending but risk nevertheless taken


Offence committed through act or omission which a person exercising reasonable care would not commit


Offence committed with little fault, for example, because:

  • significant efforts were made to address the risk although they were inadequate on this occasion
  • there was no warning/circumstance indicating a risk to health and safety
  • failings were minor and occurred as an isolated incident